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BLAKE ON EXHIBITION

The John Linnell Exhibition at Colnaghi’s was something of a revelation for those who had been reluctant to take him seriously as a painter. It is clear from the extensive showing of his work that he could hold his own in perhaps the greatest period of English landscape. Even more remarkable is the individuality of his talent; his best work has a freshness and directness that one might compare with Constable, but in a subtler sense the analogy is really more with the minute naturalism of his German contemporaries. One remembers his advice to Samuel Palmer to look at Dürer, and his connection with the Aders circle, who were pioneers in the appreciation of Northern “Primitives,” and who regarded Blake as a fellow spirit. Although there are in the exhibition a number of Blakes that were formerly in the Linnell collection and a fine selection of portraits of Blake by Linnell, there is little that sheds new light on Blake. There is a recently discovered Linnell portrait drawing purportedly of Blake, but I doubt if such a ponderous and respectable figure can be identified as the poet, although the features are undeniably like. Linnell’s proven protraits of Blake are always more animated and usually have some hint of prophetic fire, particularly in the eyes. (Report by David Bindman, University of London)

A Blake Exhibit at the Rockefeller Library of Brown University was held in January, featuring Trianon Press and other facsimiles. John J. Kupersmith prepared a section showing Blake’s illustrations of other authors, and Tom Bodkin prepared a presentation showing the evolution in design of Blake’s illuminated books. The project grew out of a bibliography class taught by librarian Stuart Sherman.

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